Record Store Day and physical/digital music retail. ”Free” (As A Bird?)
I’ve been thinking about my experience at Amoeba in LA on Saturday April 16th, aka Record Store Day.
Bought the following:
- new TV on the Radio album (support the home team — at a weighted account no less)
- Used vinyl and CDs. Mostly R.E.M.; I justify buying used because I bought them all new in the ’90s but lost them since
- a 7” vinyl copy of The Beatles’ Free As A Bird release from 1996.
Amoeba was also generous enough to include a bonus “surprise pack” of specialty vinyl and stickers. One of these turned out to be a major score - an otherwise unreleased 7” of David Gray’s “Fugitive” recorded at Downtown Records. I loved this song without knowing it, and upon hearing this, not only bought the single immediately on iTunes so I could have an MP3 of it - but a week later I also sought out a digital copy of the live version.
Would have bought that too- if it was available at digital retail. But sadly no, and this after almost 3 weeks of theoretical exclusivity since the Record Store event weekend.
Just now, I also went searching for the aforementioned Beatles FAAB MP3. Not available at digital retail.
This brings me to an issue I have with those lamenting the downfall of physical music retail. Beyond the transaction, digital and physical music retail represent mutually exclusive experiences for the music fan. Physical retail is place to discover music. Browsing the racks, observing a cascade of album covers, ears open to the in-store programming. This is something digital retail can never offer.
Digital retail is an access point to content. Anything you need, available immediately to load to whatever is your preferred device. (There was a degree of selectivity to Apple’s store programming at first but this has given way to algorithm store placement based on sales over time.) Thumbnails, genre pages and “based on if you like” will never replace wandering the aisles of Amoeba, or Newbury, Sound Garden in Baltimore, any of the classics.
Someone needs to figure out how the two can exist as complements to one another. The music I “found” at Amoeba - David Gray live track and a Beatles recording I had all but lost since the ’90s - I would gladly have paid Apple or Amazon for. Someone either decided that they needed to be “exclusive” to indie retail or just overlooked the need to deliver to digital partners. People are creating demand by accident and not bothering to supply on the other end.
In the meantime I’ll just grab it for free and upload to my new Amazon Cloud.